Zadie Smith’s fifth novel tells the story of two close friends, brown-skinned girls from northwest London who share an obsession with dance. The pair grow apart: Tracey just about makes it to the West End stage while the narrator-protagonist lands a job as a PA to a millionaire pop star named Aimee, who is a cross between Madonna and Miley Cyrus. When Aimee embarks on a philanthropic venture in an unnamed West African republic, Smith’s protagonist – already quite politically conscious thanks to the efforts of her mother, a left-wing autodidact who works her way up from local activist to Member of Parliament – witnesses at first hand the iniquities of globalisation.
The narrator’s friendship with Tracey goes awry – the kind of atrophying, wrought by mutual envy and resentment, that does for many a ‘best-friend’ relationship in the transition to adulthood – but her personal travails are merely a conduit for a broader sociopolitical panorama. Swing Time is set in